FAIRLESS HILLS — Lower Bucks soccer fans who follow Pennsbury and Neshaminy know that soccer duels between the two schools are some of the most heated in the Suburban One League (SOL). Redskins railing, Falcons flying all over the field. Yellow cards, red cards — they’re usually milling about too.
You had all that and more in a 2-1 Neshaminy win in overtime the last time the sides squared off in front of a packed house last fall at Harry Franks Stadium.
Pennsbury center attack middy Alex Kardos has been right there in the middle of most of the melees. So has Skins forward Kenny Herrmann. Now, both players are headed to play their college soccer in the PSAC with Kardos choosing East Stroudsburg and Herrmann headed to Bloomsburg.
I knew when he committed there that we were going to see each other (in college), said Kardos.
“It’s going to be great to see him again.
“I’m sure when we see each other again, we’ll butt heads; it’ll be fun. We’re both very competitive.’
Years ago, Kardos actually played on the same club team as Herrmann when both were members of YMS Premier ’96. Kenny now plays for Philadelphia Coppa along with a host of other Neshaminy players including James McCourt, Jamen Rowen and Devlin Mettee.
Still a player for YMS, Alex says Coppa is a big rival to the Premier club team. So not only is Kardos lining up opposite Herrmann in varsity play, the two are doing battle on the club circuit.
“Me and Kenny, we’re always butting heads on the field,’ stated Kardos. “That’s just the way it is; we’re both pretty physical players.’
At the end of the day, it’s all in fun, says Kardos.
“When we’re on the field, we’re going to come at each other,’ said Alex. “When the game is over, we’re all friends; it’s really all fun and games.’
Pennsbury improved dramatically last season, jumping from third place to second in the SOL National Conference and advancing to the District 1 Round of 16 a year after being ousted in its postseason opener.
Much of the credit goes to Kardos.
“Alex produced on and off the field for us,’ said Falcons head coach Tom Stoddart. “He scored 13 goals for us and he also was a big time leader off the field.’
Kardos tallied twice in Pennsbury’s final district playoff matchup vs. top seed Unionville, a 2-2 deadlock that came down to the eighth penalty kick shooter for the opponent.
“Alex led by example,’ said Stoddart. “Going forward for me as a coach, if anyone wants to know what I want from my senior leadership, they saw the job Alex did literally from last November until now, keeping the boys motivated and on task.’
“Even though we’re losing him, he left a lasting effect. He repaved the way for what we want our senior leadership to look like.
While Alex also looked at West Chester, Philadelphia University and Arcadia, he chose East Stroudsburg for a chance to play right away.
“I thought East Stroudsburg was the best fit for me,’ he said. “The coaches are phenomenal. I like the way the coaches play and handle their team.
The Warriors started nine freshmen last year so Kardos might just get his wish when he arrives upstate.
“I felt it was the best opportunity for me to start possibly or get substantial playing time as a freshman.’
That plus they’re going to let Alex stay in his chosen position on the pitch which is center-attacking midfielder.
Of course, Bloomsburg did much better than ESU last year, going 9-2 in the PSAC to 3-8 for the Warriors. No matter, says Kardos.
“I didn’t let the record dictate where I went,’ explained Alex.
The youthful Warriors had goalkeeping troubles, giving up 45 goals in 18 games. Kardos is rooming with the incoming netminder who, Alex says, posted 15 shutouts in 21 games in his last year as a high school senior.
“I know they have quality players and I feel I can strive and excel with this team,’ said Kardos. “Even if we’re underdogs, I think we’re going to do very well.’
While the Falcons are losing the services of Kardos, MF Alex Tennent, forward Keion Randolph, goalkeeper Eric Gagliardi and back Corey Heil, Alex thinks Pennsbury is poised to take a stab at the division title next season. He at least thinks the Falcons will get past the Skins in conference play.
“Things will be different next year,’ said Kardos. “Next year, I think we can get them. We definitely have more returning players in our starting lineup than they do.’
The last time the sides squared off, the Falcons prepped for the playoffs with a late-season match with their SOL archrivals, Neshaminy. The Skins nipped Pennsbury 2-1 earlier in the season so the Falcons came into Langhorne looking for revenge.
Played out on Neshaminy’s home pitch, the soccer duel had more the feel of a Friday night football game, a playoff one might venture to say.
With the Skins trailing 1-0 on a Zach LaBasso goal, Neshaminy got a goal on a tip from Herrmann with less than five minutes to go in regulation then scored the game-winner in overtime on an open look goal by freshman Jack McCourt.
The loss aside, the circumstances surrounding the game made a statement about the quality of lower Bucks soccer.
“That game just shows how much soccer has been growing, whether it’s high school or around the world,’ stated Kardos. “The amount of people who were at that game — the energy was just nuts.
“It just shows that there are people coming out for our games and they really want to see us play.
“That’s all that really matters.’
Taking a part in a big rivalry, being part of a soccer brotherhood on the pitch — that’s what Kardos signed up for in high school and it’s what he’s looking for at the college level.
“The rivalry is just awesome. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of something like that? To play in an atmosphere like that is nuts.’
One gets the feeling their big-time playing days will be just beginning when Kardos arrives upstate at East Stroudsburg and Herrmann lands in Bloomsburg in the fall.